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TELL US: How Do You Describe Salem to An Out-of-Towner?

We get lots of questions from curious visitors. How do you handle them?

Halloween will be here before we know it, and there are already lots of tourists visiting our city.

We're often fielding lots of questions about the city — "What's Salem like?" "What's it like to live there?" — and we're interested to know how you describe Salem to people who don't live here.

Is there no other place like the Witch City, or do you feel we're just a typical New England ciy? How do you describe Salem to people who don't live here?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Remember to keep it clean. If you violate our terms of use (check it out here) your comment will be deleted and your account may be suspended. If you have the urge to use profanity, an asterisk "*" will not suffice. Please find another way to make your point so we can keep the forum a place where all are comfortable sharing and conversing about the city.



Donna August 17, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Thank Goodness. Maybe we will get a higher caliber of tourist who is interested in exploring real history and culture, and shopowners who do not make a living out of exploiting the tragic past.
chester suchecki August 17, 2012 at 07:31 PM
thats why they sit outside with their dogs
Markus Ohl August 17, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I guess it is all a matter of perspective, I am looking to move to Salem 1. because I love everything about it 2. Because it is waaaay cheaper than the ridiculously expensive taxes, food, and all other costs of living where I am in NJ.
wintrovert August 17, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I tell them to ignore the witch-themed stuff and enjoy it for what it is, a coastal New England community with a few cool places to shop and eat.
Dawn Cerbone August 17, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Donna: Your very insulting to say that a tourist who is interested in Witchcraft is not high caliber. I originally came there because of the witch shoppes over 10 years ago but fell in love with the history, architecture, restaurants, regular shops and the community. Salem felt like home to me as soon as I stepped in the city. I find my self to be a high caliber person with varied interests and so are other family of mine and friends who come their frequently. I always came in October because my birthday is in the month but I continue to come at different times of the year. Not for nothing but tourism dollars are the same color as every other dollar. If people come originally for the witchcraft its my belief that they come back for other things that they find in Salem that makes Salem a wonderful city. Don't judge others for their beliefs.
john August 17, 2012 at 10:35 PM
How would you feel,as a resident,to recommend a freind to come to Salem and have them see the drunks ,needles,traffic and so on? I would like to know what the tourists think.
Brianne McDonough August 18, 2012 at 02:03 AM
As new resident, having been in Salem for just a handful of weeks now, I can say that I am pleasantly surprised. Salem has a lot to offer including a great downtown area with many excellent shops and dining establishments. So far I have met many wonderful people, strangers who are open to chatting and engaging in conversation- which is often hard to come by nowadays. I have yet to experience the horror of tourism season at it's height but I would encourage tourists to come to Salem outside the traditional visiting season. Although the quirky witch stories may drive tourists to our home there's so much more to see beyond the witch museums. As a new resident I would encourage tourists to take advantage of all Salem has to offer. Sure, if ghost tours interest you then of course partake, however recognize that Salem has a rich history in addition to the (embellished) stories of the witch trials. My hope is that beyond the initial attraction tourists are inclined to dig deeper and delve into the historical sites and maritime landmarks which truly make Salem unique.
Antoine M. Boisvert August 18, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I confess that I used to be the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween. But after twenty years in the city as an adult (I came back from college just in time for the tercentenary) I feel like Salem and I have both changed. I disagree with whoever was griping about the witch businesses being driven out by high rents; there seem to be plenty of them as far as I can see, and the ones that have vanished have been replaced by businesses that can operate year round—that's an incredible change from 1992, when vacant store fronts almost seemed to be the norm (some people can even complain about a sunrise, I guess). How I answer the question depends a lot on whether I am being asked what it is like to live here, vs what it is like to visit here as a tourist. The former question is easy (I love it!), but the latter question I usually have to follow up with some questions of my own about what the potential visitor is interested in. I try to let people know, nicely, that there is a much bigger history to Salem than the Witch Trials, and that the actual Trials have nothing directly to do with actual magic, wicca, paganism, the tarot or Halloween. But I have also learned not to judge. If a grown person wants to walk around in a Halloween costume in broad daylight in mid-September, who am I to judge that?
Antoine M. Boisvert August 18, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Ever visited Boston, New York, London, Paris, or Rome as a tourist? What did you think? Because you could find all of those things there too.
Antoine M. Boisvert August 18, 2012 at 02:20 AM
We miss you too.
Tom Uellner August 18, 2012 at 02:32 AM
It's nice to see a few posts on here that are positive. Salem has it's issues just like any other city but I swear some of the people on here would gripe about a unicorn sitting on a pot of gold in their front yard! It used to be all the bitter, pessimistic rants were on the SNews site but now a fair number of them have found their way over to Patch. As to the topic of discussion, I take a very similar approach to Antoine. Find out what they are interested in. Direct them that way and also mention the varied history of Salem, the PEM and the places to go for dinner and music.
chester suchecki August 18, 2012 at 03:14 PM
your right tom i did forget to mention the awsome music in salem.
Witch and let Witch August 18, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I love Salem and describe it as a gateway city to the rest of the North Shore. At ~45,000 people, it has a lot to offer for it's size. Artsy and cultural, Salem also has a rich maritime history. The PEM is amazing. Although much of the witch controversy took place in what is now Danvers, I thoroughly enjoy all of the wiccan wonders, new age metaphysics, and Halloween hooplah. The citizens care about the community and the mayor is incredibly devoted to making Salem a better place. The fact that Salem was asked to hold the North Shore Pride parade (and the overwhelming turnout at the parade) speaks volumes about the people and the culture in Salem. Drawbacks: lack of good dive bars and over-nosiness.
Kimberly Bizjak August 18, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I've only lived in Salem for 3 years. I have a lot of friends and family on the west coast who come to visit us and they're always asking me what Salem is like and what they should do. I tell everyone that it's an adorable little New England town where I can walk to one of my favorite breakfast places in the morning, or go take a walk on the wharf, and say hello to the friendly people I have met who walk by. We get a few beers in the evening and listen to great music in the summer, and shop at the farmers market, enjoy some ice cream, etc. The month of October is high energy and absolutely crazy but it's a blast. I tell everyone I know to come visit here and experience the amazing atmosphere and rich history. My out-of-town guests love it! However, living here, and trying to start a business in Salem is cut-throat and almost everyone is out to get you. Rent is too high for a seasonal city and there are way too many pointless laws, ordinances, and opinionated people. Some things haven't changed since 1692.
Justin Mattera August 18, 2012 at 07:10 PM
I love Salem. That's all. This is why I live and own a business here.
Gail Laterza August 18, 2012 at 10:45 PM
We love Salem! My husband is originally from Long Island and I from a town in Ct. called Naugatuck. Surprisingly we found out that Naugatuck was called Salem way back when! We love the way there is always different things to do. We love when our friends visit from other states because they fall in love with it too. You can find many interesting things to do,the PEM is excellent.Right now they are celebrating Ansel Adams incredible photography. We have a great farmers market on thurs. nights.Salem State has fabulous people like Maya Angelou. Movies on the green,a great Mayor who really cares about Salem. A ship called Fame that is wonderful to go for a sail. Ferry service to Boston!! Many,many more beautiful dog parks and parks for children. Trolleys,great restaurants. Salem is awesome, if you don't enjoy all it has to offer you are not getting out enough to the right places! :-)
Shava Nerad August 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Salem is a place of arbitrary depth and fascination particularly for a town this size. There are layers and veils of community that don't even know that the others exist. The hipsters and the punks and the lawyers and the brahmins and the old money cogniscenti and the witchy-kitchy set and the yuppies and the townies and the Puentistas and party kids from Salem State and whomever. They all pass through the town like separate animation cells, set on overlays, not intersecting, over the background of 350+ years of history they don't even appreciate -- most of them -- as the foundation of their lives, thrumming under every day's rhythms and events, the petty rivalries, the politics, the ripples and even the cracks in the sidewalks, the patterns of the tides in the oddly hemmed in waterways. How odd that the richest town in North America, the beacon of liberal free trade and internationalism, blasted to its knees, would later be remembered only for the ignomy of the Danvers witch hysteria, which never involved witches? This town lost more riches than the China trade over the last 150 years, and most of the newcomers don't really understand why the witch's robes make some of the people here blush. It's not necessarily about you, folks. It's about what you came here and didn't bother to learn, and distract everyone else from learning.
Antoine M. Boisvert August 19, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Beautifully put, Shava.
TJ August 19, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Here is the reality. Salem in ONE OF THE WORST PLACES TO LIVE IN THE COUNTRY-and I am one of many moving out and heading for Florida! Look at the violence, in the point area especially! 20 people a day getting arrested and charged with felonies! Panhandlers constantly harrassing people on the streets donwtown for money. In July alone, Joan Lovely and the EVIL Kim Driscoll rammed home all sorts of tax and fee increases when everyone was on vacation. A 45 percent increase in parking ticket fees-a $300 annual parking fee for over 1,000 spaces around the post office that used to be free--& you dont even get a guaranteed space! A 9 percent increase in water rates, a 4 percent increase in sewer rates. The downtown traffic around Wash.St is a mess. More rip-off fortune tellers, mind readers & psychics than any city of its size in the COUNTRY! The non stop anti-Christian celebration and promotion of witchcraft-which is DEVIL WORSHIP! Then the cherry on top-Driscoll and Lovely pushed foward the INTERNET SALES TAX a few weeks ago. Salem is the only city or town in the COUNTRY--to pass such a blatant ANTI-BUSINESS LAW-in the middle of the worst economy since the great depression! You wont read about any of this stuff in that rag known as the salem news! They pretend it doesnt exist. Clueless Lovely and the dangerous & arrogant Driscoll deserve the ALL the blame for Salem being such a LOUSY place to live. I tell everyone I know dont GO TO SALEM! Smart people-wake up & MOVE OUT!
Shava Nerad August 19, 2012 at 06:17 PM
TJ, I live in The Point. It's noisy, but it isn't unsafe if you mind your own business. Most of the crime in the Point is petty property crime, or violence among people who know one another -- it is not the crime I left closer to Boston -- assaults on strangers, for kicks/money and/or due to mental health or drug issues. People who freak out about it are prissy. Appreciate what an oasis this is. My old neighborhood outside Davis Square had rents 150%-200% higher than in the Point, and a crime rate much higher. The crime in the Point is just about exactly that of the area around the Harvard science library and Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school -- not your high crime zone -- an area of Cambridge known for seven figure condos, just east of Harvard Square. Research public policy and statistics instead skin and the languages, stop moaning that things change, and you might find that working on strategies to *adapt* was a more positive mode than the panicky way that you deal today. Instead, most people in Salem -- dare I say the majority -- demonize the poor -- dare I say the minorities. It was the same (for you history buffs) when Catholics first arrived, or any new ethnic group -- yet the traders out of Salem profited as well as they did because of their fame in communicating well and dealing fairly with persons of all cultures they encountered. Why is it that Salem had such clear vision abroad, and has such poor vision reading our best interests close up?
Linda Toby August 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Brilliant post by TJ. Salem is the PITS! Too expensive, too much crime, terrible traffic, horrific anti-Christian promotion of the devil-witchcraft!.Too many kooks walking the streets bothering people for money-talking to themsleves. Dogs allowed into restaurants! Its ridiculous! Worst of all the disgusting arrogance and terrible "more taxes, more spending" leadership from Kim Driscoll and Joan Lovely.I am moving back to Georgia soon! The more people leave Mass-the sooner the state will lose another left wing seat in Congress! Over 700,000 people have moved out of Mass since 2000--its too expensive and way too left wing politicallly!Help reduce the left wing Congress! Move out of Mass!
Antoine M. Boisvert August 20, 2012 at 12:02 AM
I think some people's post have already been deleted. But in addition to what Shava says in rebuttal, I think it is fair to say that some people who are unhappy in Salem, probably would be unhappy anywhere in Greater Boston. Particularly the Wiccans require a lot more "live and let live" than people from some other parts of the country are prepared for. And understanding the point neighborhood requires both racial and cultural tolerance that is often in distressingly short supply from people whose ancestors were distrusted immigrants only a few generations ago. As for the crime rate: on friday, seven people were arrested people in Salem; less than half that number were arrested on anything that could be called a felony; all but one of them had names that clearly marked them out as Anglos. It's just one day, but I think it's pretty average.
Shava Nerad August 20, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Linda, you and Newt Gingrich have a good time down there with the peaches. I'll happily stay here.
Lucy Gonzalez August 20, 2012 at 02:55 AM
I intensely dislike everthing about Salem. The anti-Christian celebration of the devil-ie-witchcraft, the corrupt left wing political structure, taxes-fees-fines-the constant increase in violence, the nasty and eccentric people on the street begging for money, terrible traffic etc. A conservative woman like me feels quite un welcome in Salem & in most of this state for that matter. You leftists like Shava & Antoine have no tolerance for anyone other that your own kind! I m thinking of moving out of Mass as well, to a place more affordable and more welcoming to conservatives!.
D sove August 20, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I like Salem overall.......But it use to only cost $1.65 for a cup of coffe at the local DDs.....but with the new parking meter its now $ 1.65 plus 75 cents an hour to park there...there must be at least 50 new parking meters....thank you salem.
adrienne August 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM
I moved to Salem in 1995 & purchased a home in 1997 in the Derby Wharf neighborhood. Salem feels like home to me & I am more than happy to sit & chat with tourists who are looking for things to do. I usually tell them to jump on a trolley & take a narrated tour & let them know they can jump on & off all day, stopping at places that really interest them. If you can't be happy & proud of the city you live in, you're probably miserable & should move!
Antoine M. Boisvert August 20, 2012 at 01:11 PM
With something like thirteen DDs in town, I bet you could find one with a Parking lot. Also 25 cents buys you enough time on a meter to drink a cup of coffee.
KlassySalem August 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Like the one at Derby and Washington, for example, or Highland Ave, or Bridge Street. Or, pay 25 cents to park in South Harbor, and go to the one across the street.
D. Bell August 21, 2012 at 05:33 AM
As an outsider who has yet to visit your town thank you all for giving your honest opinions. There are so many sides to Salem and so many points of view about it depending on who you are and whether you like or dislike the town.
kimmy the inept October 09, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Salem has limitless potentially. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Mayor Driscoll. She is singlehandedly retarding the growth of this great City. Her schools are a mess, her budget is a joke, her police and fire are stretched thin, her myopic view towards business (we're business friendly, as long as that business is a bar) is both narrowminded and extraordinarily dangerous from an ability to withstand economic swings through business diversity standpoint - all in all, she's a nightmare.

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